The College Football Playoff championship game features the likes of two very different programs. The Alabama Crimson Tide is so used to playing in games like these that it’s a surprise when Nick Saban isn’t playing for a title. Clemson, on the other hand, is playing for its first national title since 1981, and coach Dabo Swinney has Alabama ties that run deep. Let’s take a look at some of the most important storylines ahead of Monday night’s game.
Dabo Swinney was raised on Alabama football:
It’s true — Swinney’s hometown is Pelham, Ala. — which is just 62 short miles from Tuscaloosa. Swinney grew up worshipping houndstooth and Bear Bryant. He would end up walking on the football team and earned himself a football scholarship that allowed him to play from 1990-92. Swinney began his coaching career at Alabama in 1996 as a full-time assistant under former Crimson Tide head coach Gene Stallings.
This isn’t Alabama’s first rodeo:
Alabama has been in this position before. Monday night’s game marks the fourth time since January of 2010 that the Tide is playing for a national title. And if Alabama wins on Monday, it’ll give the program its 15th national title — the most of any FBS program in the country. Clemson, on the other hand, hasn’t been in this position since 1981 — Clemson won the national championship that year under head coach Danny Ford. The Tigers beat Nebraska, 22-15, that year in the 1982 Orange Bowl.
Clemson’s Deshaun Watson might be the x-factor to defeat Alabama:
Alabama, especially Nick Saban-coached Alabama teams, is notorious for struggling against dual-threat quarterbacks. Some of the most successful include Auburn’s Cam Newton in 2010, Texas A&M’s Johnny Manziel in 2012, Dak Prescott in 2014 and Tennessee’s Joshua Dobbs this season. All four of those guys averaged 291 yards combined rushing and passing. Watson enters Monday night’s game having thrown for 3,699 yards and 31 touchdowns along with 1,032 yards and 12 touchdowns on the ground.
Alabama’s defense might go down as the greatest ever:
Heading into Monday night’s showdown in Glendale, Ariz., Alabama’s defense ranked first in the country in scoring and rushing defense, second in total defense, and fourth in passing efficiency defense. The unit has 50 sacks on the season — first in the country — along with 70 quarterback hurries. One of the most menacing qualities about the unit’s defense is the defensive line, which has helped the Tide to hold its opponents to an average of 71 yards per game on the ground.